COVID-19 Update Monday, March 9, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

With additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) being reported in New Jersey, bringing the total to a half-dozen statewide as of Sunday, as well as investigations in nine counties in the state, we understand your increasing concerns about how this evolving situation may impact you. We have been closely monitoring developments in conjunction with state and federal health agencies, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences leadership and the university as a whole, and medical school leaders have been involved in the university’s COVID-19 task force to proactively address any such developments as they occur.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving Rutgers University students, faculty or staff. As the situation is dynamic and could change rapidly, we continue to take a number of preventive measures to ensure our readiness and ability to implement any necessary contingency plans with regard to each of our mission areas.

These measures include:

  • An increased focus by Environmental Services and facilities toward cleaning/disinfecting, trash and recycling removal, restroom maintenance, and disinfection of all “touchable” items to ensure focused cleaning and disinfecting procedures. As a result of this heightened focus, you may notice a slight reduction in some non-critical services, such as dusting, window cleaning and office cleaning, for example. 
  • Information Technology is working with the university’s OIT and Emergency Office to help facilitate implementation of contingency plans if distance learning options are needed, as well as work-at-home options in case people need to work remotely due to an outbreak. The medical school’s OIT has prepared the following guide to assist you with off-campus access to the various systems, including e-mail, calendars, online learning platform and other critical resources:  View Guide
  • The Office of Education and Student Affairs is continually monitoring the ongoing situation and has initiated a number of measures that reflects current recommendations of the Association of American Medical Colleges, including:
    • Clinical Education:  At the present time student education in the clinical setting remains unchanged; however, effective immediately, no medical student should enter the isolation rooms of patients with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory conditions such as tuberculosis or measles, or others where an N-95 mask is required.
    • Faculty, staff and administrators are developing contingency plans to continue the educational program if large group gathering educational sessions are canceled. We are identifying alternatives to having students attend any in-person lectures and will continue our practice of making podcast lectures available.
    • Student community and service-learning activities will follow the current and future guidelines for clinical education and large group gatherings.
    • School-related international travel for students has been suspended. The Registrar's Office, Student Affairs, and the Office of Global Health are working closely with one another to identify all students who recently traveled abroad, are currently abroad, or had plans to travel abroad in the foreseeable future, so that appropriate guidance can be provided and appropriate precautions taken.
    • Information is being gathered on all student-related activities and events that might attract 50+ attendees and are scheduled/planned for between the present time and the end of June. Although no changes are being made at this time, large group events could be restricted in the future, and our goal is to be prepared with knowledge of all relevant events.
    • Any students with concerns about exposure to COVID-19 should reach out to Student Health Services (732-235-5160) to report concerns and receive further instructions for subsequent care.
    • Graduate Medical Education: At the present time, only the attending and the nurse will be involved with the care of people with suspected/confirmed COVID-19. When residents are trained in appropriate use of personal protective equipment, they will care for these patients.
    • Continuing Medical Education Activities: At the present time, sessions are ongoing.  Future programming will follow university guidelines with respect to the number of attendees.
  • Our Rutgers Health-affiliated patient care areas have implemented practices and protocols focused on increased infection control efforts. In addition to scripts for the appointments and registration lines to triage potential cases of COVID-19, all check-in areas have been provided with supplies of masks for any individual presenting with a fever, cough or respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath. Front-desk staff are notifying a clinical staff member immediately on arrival of a patient with these symptoms, and these patients are placed into an exam room with the door closed while waiting for evaluation. Among other precautions being taken:
    • Frequent cleaning with sanitizing wipes of all frequently touched surfaces and objects, including registration desk areas.
    • Use of appropriate PPE when caring for a sick patient.
    • Restrictions on the use of aerosolized medications such as albuterol and testing in ambulatory care areas of patients who present with a fever or cough and who have travelled internationally in the prior 14 days, to decrease the chance of spreading the virus. These patients are to remain with a mask covering nose and mouth at all times while in the patient care areas and exam rooms.
    • Continued reinforcement of proper hand-hygiene guidelines, as well as requirements to wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting all exam rooms.
  • Eric B. Chandler Health Center has activated its Emergency Management Plan and formed an Incident Response Team to address COVID-19. The team has taken the following actions to date:
    • Assigned the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Medical Director to monitor the CDC website daily to stay abreast of developments.
    • Completed an inventory of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ordered needed supplies, as well as securing PPE in a safe place.
    • Created scripts for registration staff to assess all patients calling or presenting to the health center for both potential exposure and potential symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Formed a COVID-19 clinical team that will address any patients who have both symptoms of COVID-19 and a known exposure.
    • Created a written plan for the COVID-19 clinical team that includes appropriate use of PPE, patient isolation, assessment of severity of symptoms, triage home or to the hospital, patient education and notification of the Department of Health.
    • Communicated to staff through email and at team huddles and meetings the importance of hand hygiene, the use of PPE, being alert to the possibility of a case patient and the need to stay home if ill.
    • Held a staff educational meeting to update staff about COVID-19 and to address anxieties about the virus.
    • Plans to communicate to patients about COVID-19 and to host community question-and-answer sessions.
  • The Office of Research and Economic Development is developing recommendations to address research support, whether for those involved in the care and research of animals, non-human research, or human subjects research, including critical decisions regarding animal imports and disinfection of all handled surfaces. 
  • University Human Resources has issued a set of guidelines in the event employees have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or must remain home due to illness. View these guidelines and an FAQ here

What you can do:

We realize that the precautions and planning being taken regarding COVID-19 can seem daunting. However, there are several steps you can take to help protect yourself from person-to-person transmission of viruses:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve while coughing and sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on hands if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Do not share foods, utensils, e-cigarettes, etc.
  • Clean commonly touched objects and surfaces regularly.
  • Stay home from class/work if you are symptomatic (cough, fever, shortness of breath). Rutgers Occupational Health offices for RBHS New Brunswick/Piscataway can be reached at 848-445-0123, ext. 2; the Student Health Office for RBHS can be reached at 732-235-5160.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to monitor and prepare our ambulatory protocols, facilities, faculty and staff to respond to this emerging and evolving viral illness, and we promise to keep you informed of the latest developments and any changes that may be required. In conjunction with the COVID-19 task force, the university also has established an online resource with valuable information about important news, guidance and actions you can take related to COVID-19. We encourage you to check this site regularly here.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns. Together, we are taking steps to help ensure the health and safety of all our faculty, staff and students.


Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP
Dean, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Interim Dean, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Thomas Hecker, PhD
Executive Vice Dean
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Maria L. Soto-Greene, MD, MS-HPEd
Executive Vice Dean
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Carol A. Terregino, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Education and Academic Affairs
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School